It is common for disputes to arise when an employee needs to take time off for family or medical reasons.
Most often what happens is the employer will terminate, or refuse to pay the employee once they are on leave. Fortunately, employee’s are protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993.
The FMLA applies to employers with more than 50 employees. Under the FMLA, employer’s are responsible for giving eligible employees 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave if an employee experiences a qualifying event.
Eligible employee’s must:
- Work at a work-site within 75 miles of their employer
- Worked at least a total of 12 months for their current employer
- Worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately prior to the date that the FMLA leave begins
Qualifying Life Events
An employee’s personal medical issues, or a medical issue of a close relative who needs the care of the employee is considered a qualifying life event. The medical issue does not need to be related to the job, or a result of an injury suffered on the job. If the employee experiences a qualifying event, he or she may then take 12 weeks of unpaid leave and return to their position or an equivalent position without any penalty from the employer.
These life events include:
- The birth and care of the employee’s newborn child
- The employee receives a child for foster care or adoption
- An immediate family member, such as a spouse, child, sibling, or parent needs care due to a serious medical condition
- The employee contracts a serious medical condition, leaving them temporarily unable to perform their essential job responsibilities
Family and Medical Leave Act Disputes in Arizona
If the employee did give proper notice, the employer must either reinstate the employee or pay them any money they’re owed. To decide whether notice was sufficient, courts consider when the employee gave notice and the information given to the employer. Some courts even consider an employer’s awareness of the employee’s situation and need for leave as sufficient notice. For example, an employer who knew an employee suffered an injury on the job should have known that employee would need time to recover before returning to work. That awareness would be considered sufficient notice to invoke the protections of the FMLA.
The Act requires employers to reinstate employees to the same or an equivalent position, with the same or equivalent pay, responsibilities, and benefits, as they existed before they left when they return from their FMLA leave.
Dedicated Employment Law Attorneys
In any event, if an employer receives information that suggests the employee may need leave, the burden is on the employer to reach out to the employee and find out if he or she is in fact experiencing a qualifying event. The employee is not required to identify the FMLA by name to the employer to receive its protections. If you or someone you know has lost a job because of work missed due to a medical issue or caring for a relative with a medical issue, you may have a claim for lost wages or reinstatement under the FMLA.
If you believe that your employer has violated any of your FMLA rights, we recommend that you contact a member of the labor and employment law team at JacksonWhite. Our attorneys can work through your concerns and guide you through the appropriate steps to determine your employment and FMLA rights.
Call our Employment Law team at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your case today.